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"We all learnt a great deal about Farming - it helped the children to understand the idea of Farming more. A real hands on experience!"

By Reading School Year 4 teacher



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24 May 2022

    Bluebells at Rushall Farm I first met...


21 Feb 2020


Some time ago my sister sent me a very splendid tea cosy: Black Welsh Mountain wool from Rushall Farm made into felt, decorated with leaf shaped patches of leather.  I chose my moment of quiet and put it on my head. My daughter burst into the room telling me I had got it on the wrong way round.  I remember another occasion when, seeing me in my green John Deere overalls and white woollen hat, Jim Balsdon rather unkindly compared me to an overgrown courgette.  Since retiring I avoid hats during the winter, making the assumption that the extra mood enhancing Vitamin D that I receive compensates for losing 10% of my body heat through my head.

But it is March and it’s spring, and all around creation is ready and waiting to burst into life.  That is obvious with the lambs and calves, the bluebells, primroses and wood anemones, the birdsong, frogspawn and boxing hares. This is catch up time for farmers and a lot to do on the land.  Last year’s very wet weather interrupted the autumn planting of corn and what did go in had poor establishment.  There is land to plough and plant with the traditionally lower yielding spring crops of barley, wheat, oats and oil seed rape. It is extraordinary that the value of these essential foods is the same as it was 30 years ago; actually wheat price at one point was higher in 1974! It is not difficult to imagine how all the costs, including fuel, tractors and machinery and labour have gone up enormously. The general response has been for farms to get bigger and more industrial.

Another approach to this predicament has been to become organic, avoiding the high costs of fertilisers and sprays, producing food which is safer to eat and more in harmony with the environment. It is not popular with the farming community, but Stephen Waters together with his family have been prepared to continue to buck the trend on Rushall Farm. His organic crops sell for over twice the value of conventional ones, yes with a reduction in yield but none of the crippling financial and environmental costs of sprays and fertilisers. As well as the farm being organic it is part of the Higher Level and Woodland Management schemes to promote environmentally sensitive land management. The farm provides an excellent example of the way the government can show that the £3 billion going to the farming community each year is “public money for public good”. The promise from government is that present support arrangements will continue for the next 5 years.  Otherwise the farming community will need more than extra Vitamin D.

John Bishop